Recently, I found out that my friend Kaelyn is taking her first year of Spanish at school! I thought that was really cool, and I told her that I’ve been learning Spanish for quite a while now. When I realized that we could make a great collaboration together, where she could ask me questions about learning a new language and I could draw from my personal experience, that’s how this post came to be!
Make sure to check out Kaelyn’s blog, as she kindly provided me with the ten questions I’ve answered below. 🙂
Advice for Learning a New Language
1. What has been the hardest thing about learning Spanish?
Remembering all of the grammatical rules. Because English is my first language, I’m used to its grammar, so I’ve always found it challenging to remember the order of words in Spanish sentences, phrases, etc. Despite this, I’ve actually found that Spanish grammar makes much more sense than English grammar does! I’m just so accustomed to the strange way we say things in English that the simpler way to speak in Spanish is a challenge.
2. What has been the easiest thing?
Developing my accent! I decided from the beginning of my Spanish-learning journey that I wanted to pronounce all of the Spanish words I say correctly, to the point where a native Spanish speaker would understand what I said if they heard me. To do this, I repeated back every lesson I took on language-learning apps and websites, which gave me a lot of experience speaking like a native.
Sometimes, it can be really hard to hear certain sounds and intonations in a language you didn’t grow up hearing, but with practice, it definitely gets easier and easier to recognize and replicate.
3. What is your favorite word?
La regadera (the shower)! When I first learned this word in 2014, I thought that it was a lot of fun to say. Rolling each ‘r’ across your tongue is fun once you get the hang of it. I also think querida (dear) is a pretty word, more for what it means than how it sounds.
4. How long have you been learning Spanish?
I began learning the basics of the language in 2013 because I had a few Spanish-speaking neighbors and I wanted to be able to interact with them! The next year, when I had to pick a language to learn in 9th grade, I chose Spanish, and I’ve been learning it on and off ever since. So, overall, I’ve been slowly learning the language for seven years!
5. What do you use to help you learn it?
Repetition (taking lessons daily or at least weekly), and mnemonic devices! Mnemonic devices are “techniques a person can use to help them improve their ability to remember something.” I’ll find all sorts of ways to remember a word or a phrase, and the most effective way I’ll do this is by tying a new word to an old word I already know. For example, the word for ‘church’ in Spanish is iglesia, and when I first learned the word back in 2017, I thought that the new word looked a lot like our word ‘igloo.’ So, to help myself remember how to say ‘church’ in Spanish, I just picture an igloo church! Or something like that. 😉 This was a silly example, but I’ve found that if something works for retention, it doesn’t really matter how silly it is!
6. What inspired you to learn it?
Having Spanish-speaking neighbors was the first step, but I also really wanted to learn Spanish so that I could volunteer in Guatemala one day! It makes things so much easier when you can speak the language of the locals, because even if you aren’t fluent, you’ll still be able to connect with those people through what you are able to chat about.
7. How do you hope to use your Spanish-speaking skills?
To be able to talk with any Spanish-speaking person I meet, whether that’s at a job I have one day or when I’m volunteering in Guatemala, as well as to translate anything that needs translating! I’ve also just found that spending time learning a new language really exercises your brain, which isn’t the reason why I’m learning it, but it’s definitely a perk. 🙂
8. Do you like to speak Spanish to your family or friends?
Sure! Sometimes, I’ll occasionally use a Spanish word or phrase with my family in a relevant situation, then I’ll teach them what it means. For instance, I’ll say cálmate when someone needs to calm down (it’s basically the Spanish phrase for ‘chill out,’ haha), and now my mom says it, too! I also have fun with my family when I read an advertisement or book title that’s in Spanish, then I translate it back into English. I always think it’s entertaining because of the grammatical differences, because it’s different from how we talk in English. I’m the only person I know who’s learning Spanish, so I unfortunately don’t have anyone to practice with, but I do like exposing my family to the language and culture. 🙂
9. Do you have any funny stories in the process of learning it?
I do think it’s funny when some of the sentences language-learning apps want you to learn are so pointless and won’t be possible to use in the real world, such as ‘I am a potato’ (thanks, Duolingo) and other phrases very specific to various professions (real estate agent, lawyer, etc.). If I were actually learning Spanish to go along with a specific job, I doubt I’d be using one of those apps! I’d probably be in a ‘Spanish For Future Lawyers’ college class xD
10. Have you ever been able to use Spanish in a real-life scenario?
I have practiced my Spanish with the neighbors I used to have, which was a very interesting experience. Aside from that, the other times I’ve heard people speaking Spanish out in public, there was never a reason for me to say anything to them. Plus, I’m pretty shy about communicating in Spanish because I haven’t had enough regular interaction with others in Spanish, so even though my comprehension is pretty high, my participation and ability to respond is very low. I’d love to spend more time with Spanish speakers one day so I can put my knowledge of the language to work! ❤
Thank you so much for reading! And thanks again to Kaelyn for these awesome questions. 🙂 If you have any other questions about learning a new language, I’d love to offer you my advice! Feel free to comment below.